The Grand Budapest Hotel

April, 2014, Comedy

Droll: (noun) A comic farce adapted from existing material performed by actors during England’s Commonwealth era when Puritans closed that nation’s theaters.

 Droll (noun): Humorous, whimsical or of odd quality.

Merriam/Webster Dictionary

 These definitions could be applied equally to this madcap fantasy by Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The RoyalTannenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom) or to the director himself. Part delicious sendup of movie clichés and part magical fantasy, this fey tale about the supposedly famous concierge of an elegant European hotel in the 1930’s packs more humor and élan into its perfectly-paced 100 minute running time than any film of recent memory.

 Working from his own screenplay, Anderson’s latest has the compulsive momentum of the best Marx Brothers movies joyously coupled with a delirious script that careens from one improbable plot development to the next, providing its 15 well-know actors (see if you can spot them all) with the opportunity to invest their characters with such sophisticated wackiness you’ll think you’ve been invited into a meticulously-designed, cinematic version of the Mad Hatters Tea Party.

 Ralph Fiennes headlines here as Gustave H, the concierge whose meticulous attention to detail and fawning treatment of wealthy dowagers sets off an inheritance race which spans the countries of Central Europe, a half dozen of its draftier castles, a 3rd world prison and an assortment of period trains, cars and funiculars to rival the films of Nelson Eddy/Janette McDonald era.

 Fiennes personifies the sort of pompous, sycophant encountered so often at exclusive restaurants and lavish hotels – the type who can fawn while being condescending; the sort who treat the smallest challenge to their authority as an unforgivable affront. It’s a deliciously subversive performance; all the more surprising because it’s at such odds with the actor’s other work.

 At the risk of failing to recognize the best supporting roles, (which would include the whole cast) I’d recommend paying special attention to Adrien Brody, and Jeff Goldblum, who typify the brilliant, enchanting lunacy of Anderson’s inspired imagination.

 Production Designer Adam Stockhausen (12 Years a Slave) and Set Decorator Anna Pinnock (Life of Pi) create the perfect visualization of this fairytale, blending clever sets with cartoonish transition sequences to reinforce the impression that Anderson’s spinning an Arabian Nights fantasy that delights its creator as much as it does his audience. Despite this writer/director’s astonishingly ambitious scope, The GrandBudapest Hotel manages to be disarmingly attractive…and perhaps Anderson’s best film yet.

 The Verdict? A wonderfully amusing movie of disarming sweetness, which gently mocks so much of our film history. This one’s sui generis – and you’ll love it.  

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